In many ways, Josef Byng was a typical product of the SLN, according to the ONI file. He came from a family which had been providing senior officers to the League Navy for the better part of seven hundred T-years; he’d graduated from the naval academy on Old Terra; and he’d gone directly into Battle Fleet, which was far more prestigious than Frontier Fleet. He was a second-generation prolong recipient who was just over a T-century old, and he’d been an admiral for the last thirty-two T-years. Unlike the Royal Manticoran Navy, the SLN had not developed the habit of routinely rotating senior officers in and out of fleet command to keep them current both operationally and administratively, and it looked as if Byng (or his family) had possessed sufficient pull to keep him in what were at least technically space-going commands for virtually his entire flag career.

That didn’t mean as much in Battle Fleet as it might have in other navies, given the huge percentage of Battle Fleet’s wall which spent virtually all of its time in what the SLN euphemistically referred to as “Ready Reserve Status.” It was quite possible for an admiral to spend several T-years in command of a squadron of superdreadnoughts, accruing the seniority — and drawing the pay — which went with that assignment, while the superdreadnoughts in question simply went right on floating around in their mothballed parking orbits without a single soul on board.
What was much more interesting to Michelle at the moment, however, was the fact that fifty-nine T-years ago, a young, up-and-coming Captain Josef Byng had been officially reprimanded — and moved back two hundred names on the seniority list — for harassing Manticoran shipping interests.
Her skimming eyes slowed down as she reread that particular portion of the entry again, and she grimaced. Despite the ONI analyst’s dry, rather pedantic writing style, it was easy enough to read between the lines. Captain Byng had clearly been one of those Solly officers who regarded neobarbs — like Manticorans — as two or three steps below chimpanzees on the evolutionary tree. It also appeared that his wealthy and aristocratic family (although, of course, Old Terra didn’t have an aristocracy . . . officially) was deeply involved in interstellar commerce.
It was common enough in Manticore for families involved in the Star Kingdom’s vast shipping industry to provide officers for the Navy, as well, and Michelle was perfectly well aware that more than one of those officers had used and abused her authority in her family’s interest. When the RMN became aware of those instances of abuse, however, it usually took action. On those rare occasions — which no longer occurred with anything like the frequency they once had — when the officer involved had proved too well connected for the JAG to deal with the situation, she’d normally been eased out of any command which might give her the opportunity to repeat the offense.
That, unfortunately, was not the case in the Solarian League, where cronyism and the abuse of power were both common and accepted. Especially in the Shell and the Verge, officers with “comfortable” relationships with the local OFS structure routinely used their positions to feather their own nests or promote their own interests. Captain Byng had obviously seen no reason why he shouldn’t do the same thing, but his harassment had been far more blatant than most. He’d gone so far as to impound three Manticoran freighters on trumped up smuggling charges, and the crew of one of them had spent almost two T-years in prison without ever even being given the opportunity to face a judge.
The Star Kingdom had attempted to deal with the problem locally, without raising it to the level of a major diplomatic incident, but Byng had flatly refused even to discuss the matter with the local Manticoran trade and legal attachés. The terms in which he had expressed his refusal had been . . . less than diplomatic, and the second time around, the legal attaché, without Byng’s knowledge, had recorded the entire conversation. Which had then been presented formally to the Solarian Foreign Minister by the Manticoran ambassador to the Solarian League — who’d happened to be an admiral himself — with a polite but pointed request that the minister look into the problem. Soon.
Unfortunately for Captain Byng, the Star Kingdom of Manticore carried far more clout than the “neobarbs” he was accustomed to browbeating. Faced with the politely veiled suggestion that failure to return the impounded vessels — and to free the imprisoned crewman, with apologies and reparations — might very well result in higher junction transit fees for all Solarian merchantmen, the League’s bureaucracy had sprung ponderously into action. It had taken another six T-months, but eventually, the ships and the imprisoned crewman had been released, the League had paid a sizable damages award, and Captain Byng had been required to apologize formally for “exceeding his authority.” Despite that, he’d gotten off incredibly lightly for someone whose actions — and stupidity — had embarrassed an entire star nation, Michelle thought. He’d been allowed to make his apology in written form, rather than in person, and any Manticoran officer who’d acted in the same fashion would undoubtedly have been dismissed from the Queen’s service. In Byng’s case, however, there’d never really been any possibility of that outcome. In fact, it was astonishing he’d even been moved back on the promotion lists.
It would appear from his subsequent record that he held everyone but himself responsible for that outcome, however. It had undoubtedly delayed his promotion to flag rank by several T-years, and it seemed evident that he blamed Manticore for his misfortunes.
Michelle would have found all of that sufficiently unhappy reading under any circumstances, but the fact that he was out here commanding a Frontier Fleet task force — and what looked, despite the fact that it was far larger than one normally saw in the Verge, to be a rather small one, for an officer of his seniority — made her even more unhappy.
Battle Fleet and Frontier Fleet were not fond of one another. Battle Fleet, despite the fact that none of its capital ships had fired a shot in anger in over two T-centuries, received the lion’s share of the SLN’s funding and was by far the more prestigious of the two organizations. Its officer corps was populated almost exclusively with officers whose family backgrounds were similar to Byng’s, making it virtually a closed caste. Whereas the RMN had a surprisingly high percentage of “mustangs” — officers who had risen from the enlisted ranks to obtain commissions — there were none at all of them in Battle Fleet. That helped contribute to an incredibly (by Manticoran standards) narrowness of focus and interest on the part of the vast majority of Battle Fleet officers. Who not only tended to look down particularly long and snobbish noses at all non-Solarian navies — and even the planetary defense forces of major Solarian planets — but even looked down upon their Frontier Fleet counterparts as little more than jumped up policeman, customs agents and neobarb-bashers who obviously hadn’t been able to make the cut for service in a real navy.
Frontier Fleet, for its part, regarded Battle Fleet officers as overbred, under-brained drones whose obsolescent capital ships — as outmoded and useless as they were themselves — soaked up enormous amounts of funding Frontier Fleet desperately needed. Personally, Michelle would have been even more incensed by the fact that so much of the funding officially spent on those same capital ships actually disappeared into the pockets of various Battle Fleet officers and their friends and families, but she supposed it would have been unrealistic to expect Frontier Fleet to feel the same way. After all, graft and “family interest” were as deeply ingrained a part of Frontier Fleet’s institutional culture as they were for Battle Fleet. And to be fair, Frontier Fleet was also dominated by its hereditary officer caste, which resented the hell out of the juicier opportunities for peculation which came the way of its Battle Fleet counterpart. Still, its commissioned ranks contained a significantly higher percentage of “outsiders,” and even a relatively tiny handful of mustangs of its own.
Bearing all of that in mind, no Battle Fleet admiral would have been happy to find herself assigned to command a mere Frontier Fleet task force. And no Frontier Fleet task force would have been happy to find her assigned to command it, either. Under any circumstances Michelle could think of, a Battle Fleet officer of Byng’s seniority would have to regard a command like this as a demotion, probably even a professional insult, and he damned well ought to have had the family connections to avoid it.
If, of course, he’d wanted to avoid it.
Oh, I don’t like this at all, she thought. This bastard must have “I hate Manticore” embroidered on his underwear, which means the situation out here just got one hell of a lot more . . . delicate. I wonder if it was all his idea? In fact, I hope it was. Because if it wasn’t, if someone else pulled strings to get him assigned to this particular task force and he went along with it willingly, I think we can all be damned sure it’s not going to be a reason we’re going to like. On the other hand, I doubt anything I could say to him is going to make him like us any better, so I suppose I can just go ahead and be my normal, infinitely tactful sort.
“Well,” she said finally, “I suppose I’d better go ahead and talk to him. Give me a minute to get my happy face put back on, Bill, then go on and hail him.”

About Eric Flint

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12 Responses to STORM FROM THE SHADOWS — snippet 92

  1. Well. This Byng sounds like a REAL shit. And Battle Fleet/Frontier Fleet reminds me of the difference between the frontier legions of the Roman Army, and the Praetorian Guard. The actual fighters versus "we guard the Emperor, and get more prestige"!!

  2. catboy says:

    anyone whant to guess that Byng gets his ass shot off?

    • MadMcAl says:

      Not now and not here. If it comes to combat here and now, Henke will lose. Against 17 solarian BC's in knife range (8000 km is way below the normal energy combat range of up to 1000000 km. Here even the grav lance with energy torpedos would be really effective ;)) she can't play the advantages of the Nikes, higher speed, longer missile range, long missile endurance and way better anti-missile-defenses in missile combat, the higher speed, the stronger impeller complete with stronger sidewalls and the buckler/front/aft-wall in normal energy range.
      The only advantage she could play is the relative higher power of the Nikes energy mounts. They are something the SLN propably would build in its DN's or even SD's (the Nikes are in the old classification battleships and not battlecruisers, so they would carry BB-size energy mounts, then the SLN doesn't follow the Grayson-style energy armament scheme with fewer but stronger weapons, but the RMN does). But against 4.25 to 1 odds that is simply not enough.
      And at that range she can't prevent the sollys to swarm her and crossing her T front and aft. The casualties on the solly side would propably greater, due the old crew plans the sollys still use, but makes it not better.

      • JohnRoth1 says:

        That's true if, and that's the operative word, if, the battle takes place in orbit. However, whoever started it would not only be risking an Eradnii Incident, they'd be laying out the welcome mat.

        If Heneke decides to leave at low acceleration, thus playing into Byng's preconceptions,
        he might decide that he can intercept her before she gets to the hyper limit.

        All bets are off then.

        • MadMcAl says:

          You make one single small but important thinking error. What is an Eridani Incident? Or better what is the Eridani Edict?
          The EE is the one single occurence of united solarian power where the SL forced everybody else to not violate it. In other words, if the military of one power violates the EE, the SL will automatically mobilize its military to destroy the goverment of said power. I simply can't see the SL authorizing the SLN to destroy the SL. This is a case of quis custodit custodes. Or, who guard the guards. So Byng may try to avoid an EE, but contrary to Henke he is not really needing to.
          Also, contrary to your belive, the battle in orbit is way safer in regards of an EE as an strike from an attacking force to an target in Orbit.
          The involuntary EE-violations are misses. With a distance of 8000 km (way under a light second. The shots need 0.026 seconds to reach the target. A nearly stationary target by the way) there won't be any misses from the energy mounts. And he or she who uses missiles at this range needs his head shrinked.
          No the only thing hindering Byng to simply blow the Nikes out of space is politics. He will get flak when he murders the 5fth (?) in line of succession of the SKM. In this case Manticore will pull out all stops to get his head on a platter (literally). And with Beowulf and the Wormhole junction there is a good chance they will get it.
          And Byng knows that. So he won't do that without an really really conclusive reason. For example when he can make a really strong case in self defense or defense of Monica.

          • Drak says:

            There has been speculation that an EE violation by the SL Navy will lead to the breakup of the Solarian League. League members like Beowulf would strongly object to a 'white-washing' of a SL Navy commander who ordered an EE violation or an involuntary EE violations. Oh, the involuntary EE violations aren't misses. They are when an attack on orbital stations or warships miss the target and hit the planet.

            Final note, i think you're over-estimating the intelligence of Byng.

            • kingpaul says:

              Speaking of Beowulf, wasn't there some speculation earlier that Beowulf was thinking of leaving the SL and moving towards the SK(E)M?

              • Drak says:

                Yep, there's been speculation about that. While David Weber didn't confirm or deny the possiblity, he did state that Beowulf like the other core SL members can legally leave the SL.

            • MadMcAl says:

              You are right. The involuntary EE violations are shots that missed their intended target. Or, in other words, misses. And no. From the information we have so far Byng is burned. Burned by the good connection and political and economical power Manticore has. In other words, he knows from first hand how this bunch of neo-barbs react and that they have the power to hurt him. So he is either dumb enough not to care (what, in the parts brought here so far is not to see, as that would be really really dumb) or he is carefull not to give this neo-barbs any weapons against him in the hand.

  3. Harpoon says:

    I think we will see a gradual increase in tensions, perhaps with the New Tuscans, leading up to Adm. Byng getting his ass shot off. We are, after all, only into a small part of the book. A bit early for the shooting to start.

    • JohnRoth1 says:

      We're actually almost half way through, or a bit farther. Consider that we're at snippet 91 or thereabouts, and there are only another 4 to 6 weeks of snippets to go before the book comes out and Eric cuts us off. That'll bring us up to somewhere between 114 and 120 snippets. Since Eric seems to plan on about 60% of the book in snippets that makes us 46% through, assuming that a full 120 snippets make 60%.

  4. I think the last time Weber let a character of his be utterly defeated is Honor in In Enemy Hands. And he was also setting up the fall of Hades and the Parnell/Tresca information. As for Eridani Incident, Byng can't be THAT stupid. He will provoke her like Honor was provoked by "Brother" Marchant. We already know, thirdhand, Byng is a fool. The only question to asked is how much of a fool.

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